The 8 Best Defensive Coverages in Football

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Published: 20th January 2011
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When you hear an announcer on a football game telling you which player blew the coverage on that touchdown pass, you might wonder how he knows. If the announcer is worth his salt, he recognized the coverage before the snap. This is not a hard skill to master if you know what to look for.

There are 5 base coverages, and then several combination coverages off of those.

Cover 0 - Straight man coverage with no body to help. 5 players are locked in man coverage on the 5 eligible receivers. Everyone else should be commited to the run and rushing the passer.

Cover 1 - Also called Man/Free Coverage. Cover 1 is one of the most popular defensive coverages because you have the 5 eligible receivers covered man to man, plus a deep safety helping out over top if anyone gets loose. 5 players are left to commit to rushing the Quarterback.

Cover 2 - A popular coverage with the 4-3, 5-2 and 3-4 Defenses. Cover 2 uses two safeties playing deep half coverage. The corners try to force the outside receivers in, while the Linebackers force inside receivers out. This creates a "funnel" of receivers going to the deep safety.

Cover 3 - The most popular of all defensive coverages. Cover 3 is extremely simple to teach and the best coverage for when you need to stop the run first. The cornerbacks and free safety are responsible for deep thirds of the field, 10 yards or further back. Two outside linebackers handle the flat zones outside, while two inside linebackers take care of the hook/curl zones near the hash marks, under 10 yards.

Cover 4 - Cover 4 may be the least used of the basic defensive coverages, but it is still a good coverage. The corners and 2 safeties each have a deep quarter of the field, while only 3 players take care of the underneath zones. This is a good prevent coverage.

Combination Coverags

There are several other coverage that have been created out of those basic coverages.

Man Under/Cover 2 - uses man coverage on the 5 eligible receivers with 2 deep safeties over top. This is the best coverage for 7 on 7 games where you cannot run the ball. You should only see this coverage in definite passing downs because so few players are available to stop the run.

Quarters Coverage - features a combination of Cover 4 and Cover 2. Quarters uses pattern reading so that often it will look like Cover 2, but if 4 players run vertical routes, they will have 4 deep players covering them. Quarters is a great coverages for 4-3 Defenses.

Robber Coverage - finds ways to get an extra player to help out on dangerous receivers. Variations of the robber coverage have been made famous by Virginia Tech's Bud Foster and other teams in recent years.

There are many more defensive coverages that you may see, but they are all based off of the 5 base coverages. If you can understand these coverages you can find the right one to stop any offense.

Joe Daniel is an experienced High School and College football coach. He writes the Football-Defense Report blog with over 150 articles on coaching defensive football. In addition, Coach Daniel has written a book detailing how to install Football's most popular defense, the 4-3 Defense. You can download this eBook immediately by clicking here.

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